The film artfully presents one of the more recent atrocities of war with a compelling facade of a mystery being unearthed. An effective evocation of the madness that is war.
Waltz With Bashir is a documentary presented in an animated medium. This animation is not for kids.It deals with the events surrounding the Sabra and Shatila massacre during the 1982 Lebanon War. The dialogue is partially lifted from real interviews conducted by director Ari Folman, as well as voiceovers of himself, explaining his experience to the audience. The dialogue is assembled in such a way that the events of the massacre unfold like the clues to a mystery. The mystery is contained in the filmmakers mind; all he remembers of that fateful day is a vision of three soldiers rising out of the water, watching as eerie orange flares illuminate the sky.
The art style is fantastic. While the animation looks a little like rotoscoping, it is in fact a combination of flash animation and traditional animation. With its typically dark hues, shifting colour schemes and unique patterns of movement, the animation is used to bring the visions, nightmares, hallucinations and actual memories to life in a haunting fashion. The film has a detailed, real-but-not style that draws the viewer in with its appealing look, and before you know it you're experiencing the war as these soldiers did; one crazy episode after another. Highlights include: a tank navigating a narrow street by crushing cars underfoot, and shaving a little off the corners of buildings; several great montages that portray the progress of the war; a pack of bloodthirsty dogs (26 precisely) bolting through a busy street; a lone soldier apparently waltzing in the middle of a street while under fire - beneath towering images of Lebanon's dead president, Bashir...
Viewers be warned there is quite a bit of violence throughout the movie - sometimes graphic - as well as a surprising amount of nudity in these soldiers visions; male and female. It's never really exploitative; it serves to highlight the mood and mental states of the characters at the time. The director has compared the experience of war to an acid trip. All that said, the visuals are stunning, and perhaps the films greatest strength is its sheer visual appeal. The story told is sometimes sad, sometimes darkly humorous, and at turns shocking; but it all works through the medium of the animation.
The most shocking part of this film is the ending. I could have watched right up to the last 10 minutes and felt fine; but when the reality of the massacre finally hits home for Ari, he brings it home for the audience as well, in a very serious way. I won't say much because I think it's the most effective and surprising thing about the movie; just know you're in for a devastating experience if you embark on it.